How to Clean Old Wood Furniture

Are you the proud owner of an old wooden furniture piece you would love to get cleaned?

Wood furniture is incredibly popular and has stood up against the test of time. For centuries, people have picked wooden items to brighten indoor and outdoor spaces.

Wood furniture is durable, versatile, and suits a variety of tastes.

But do you know how to clean old wood furniture? The process may seem daunting, especially when working with antique pieces.

That’s why we have compiled the ultimate guide to cleaning old wood furniture below.

What this article covers:

What to Use to Clean Old Wood Furniture

When it comes to cleaning wood furniture, there are various products and even some home remedies that can get the job done.

We highly recommend investing in professional carpet and upholstery chemicals

how to clean old wooden furniture

These products are designed to make the cleaning process easier and are effective for anything, from cleaning wooden walls to keeping your outdoor furniture clean.

You can opt for a general cleaner, such as Protect All, or a product specifically designed to deal with and prevent future spills, such as a Solvent Sealer.

There are also many wood oils that are perfect for finishing off your furniture piece after the cleaning process (a must-have when cleaning cherry furniture or polishing teak furniture indoors).

how to clean old furniture wood

If you are tight on budget, there are also some home remedies that can be useful.

Dish soap and mineral spirits are commonly used household products that can be used as cleaning agents on wooden furniture.

Alternatively, you can also use a mixture of oil and vinegar.

The oil will hydrate the wood while the vinegar cleans it.

Hemp oil, grapeseed oil, or beeswax works best for this purpose. Unfortunately, most vegetable oils used for cooking won’t work.

best way to clean old wooden furniture

How to Deep Clean Old Wood Furniture

Step 1: Dust

Regular dusting is one of the best ways to clean wood furniture, regardless of age.

Now, if you don’t have a feather duster you can use a microfiber cloth or any type of lint-free clothing item, like a t-shirt, to collect dust and debris.

For white furniture, or when dealing with lighter wood (such as when cleaning white oak hardwood floors), it may be easy to see when you are done dusting because the color of the furniture will change.

But when cleaning antique mahogany furniture, for example, it may be harder to tell. You will know you are done dusting when you wipe your finger over the furniture, and it comes back clean. Or when the dust stops collecting at the surface.

Step 2: Clean

Method 1: Professional Cleaners

As mentioned above, you can buy a targeted wood cleaner for this step. In this case, simply follow the instructions on the bottle and apply. 

This usually involves applying the cleaner to a cloth and working it in circular motions across the wood piece’s surface.

how to clean old wood furniture naturally

You can also use #0000 steel wool and apply the cleaner, ensuring you move with the grain as you clean. This is helpful for older wooden pieces that require a more delicate touch.

Method 2: Home Remedies

When cleaning your wooden furniture with household items, it is best to start with a mild approach before moving to stronger remedies.

The mildest option is using a mixture of dish soap and water. Simply mix it in a bucket and use a sponge to lather it over the surface of the wooden furniture. 

Be careful of introducing too much water at this stage, as it can damage the wood finish.

You can also use a cloth but be sure to wring out the excess water every time you dip your cloth or sponge into the mixture.

Another great option is using mineral spirits. You can use this after cleaning with dish soap or as a cleaning solution on its own.

Simply dip a cloth in some spirits and clean the furniture by making circular motions over the surface.

As mentioned above, there are certain types of natural oils, such as hemp or grapeseed oil, you can also use. Simply mix three parts of oil with 1 part of vinegar and clean as described above.

best way to clean old wood furniture

Step 3: Wipe Off

After applying the cleaning product of your choosing, wipe off the entire wooden piece with a cloth dipped in water to ensure all residue is removed.

Follow this with a wipe-down using a dry cloth to ensure all the residual moisture is also removed.

Step 4: Clean Nooks & Crannies

If your furniture piece has some grimy nooks and crannies, you may need to follow your cleaning step with a targeted approach. A toothbrush is useful for reaching these parts. 

You can use any of the above cleaning solutions and work them into these areas using a toothbrush. Some people even use non-gel-based toothpaste for this purpose. 

Then, follow with a wet cloth and a dry cloth to finish off the process.

Step 5: Deal With Tough Stains

After your initial clean, you may spot some stains that persist. 

In this case, you may want to use #0000 steel wool and mineral spirits to address these stains. 

Simply apply the spirits to the steel wool and buff over the stain, using a gentle approach. 

Step 6: Oil or Wax

The last step to get your wooden piece looking good as new is to finish off the process with oil or wax.

You can buy a specific wood oil for this purpose or combine olive oil, gum turpentine, denatured alcohol, and lemon juice for a homemade oil polish.

how to clean old furniture

Simply dip a clean cloth in your oil and gently buff the furniture.

Some people prefer wax to oil because oil does not provide a protective surface and may show fingerprints and other marks.

There are myriad waxes you can choose from. Simply put your wax in a cloth and knead it until it is soft. Then rub the cloth over the surface until it has a dull appearance. 

Follow this by wiping the area with a clean cloth. Do this with the entire piece of furniture and repeat for best results.


Cleaning old wooden furniture can be intimidating, especially when dealing with delicate wood. 

Luckily, the process outlined above is foolproof, no matter what furniture piece you are dealing with.

Some people fear investing in wooden furniture because of the wear and tear it can show over time. 

But now that you have the perfect cleaning solution, you are well on your way to becoming an expert wood cleaner.

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